The power of an internship

The power of an internship

By Peter Horton

“I would be lying if I said there haven’t been any challenges.” That’s Davit Antonyan, who spent this summer as an intern at Ares Management, an international asset management company. Davit was one of 85 students selected for a paid internship through The Intern Project (TIP), a countywide program run by the LA Promise Fund. TIP pairs talented high school students from across LA County with paid internships at leading companies and institutions.

“It was a completely new experience to just get thrown into the professional world without any prior background,” Davit said, “but it’s been super exhilarating, and I’ve loved getting to know more people in the industry and refine my interests.”

As the summer internships ended, the LA Promise Fund invited the interns to a culminating celebration at Microsoft’s offices in Playa Vista, where they reflected on the skills they developed and the insight they gained. Like Davit, TIPster Christian Zuniga now has a clearer sense of what he wants to do. He is going to UC Santa Barbara in the fall to major in communications. He knew during high school that he wanted to work in public relations and community engagement, but he didn’t realize the opportunities out there — until he interned with the LA Rams through TIP. “This internship opened me up to new options,” he said.

Along with boosting future career opportunities, research shows that high school internships have the power to increase the chances that students from disadvantaged backgrounds, especially young men, have of getting into college and staying in college.* The LA Promise Fund believes that breaking the cycle of poverty requires equitable access, not only to material resources and services, but also to experience. The Intern Project amplified the impact of the internships by offering students training in financial aid applications, college access, opening a bank account, meeting standards of professionalism, and more.

At the culminating event, LA Promise Fund staff continued to lead activities to help students solidify the hard and soft skills they’ve been developing over the summer. Director of Programs Rhea Triñanes led students in updating their resumes and creating LinkedIn accounts, and Teacher in Residence Leslie Aaronson gave advice on networking, which she wanted students to think of as “building and maintaining courteous, positive, mutually beneficial relationships.”

The students were then able to put this advice into action when they were joined by professionals from the dozens of companies and nonprofits that have partnered with the LA Promise Fund on The Intern Project. The students networked the room like seasoned pros, applying the firm handshake that Leslie recommended and describing their summer accomplishments in concrete terms, as Rhea advised.

For these professionals, too, The Intern Project is invaluable. “We hosted two interns this summer, one in our Design Library and the other at our Melrose Showroom,” said Marcia Darden of Michael Smith Inc.. “Ethan, our intern at the Library, was just fabulous. He arrived every day eager to learn more about interior design and architecture. And our intern Elijah at our Melrose Showroom, made such a positive impact on the team there they cherished every minute he spent with them learning about the showroom business.” Michael Smith Inc plans to continue to partner with the LA Promise Fund and The Intern Project.

Eric Doty of Mobcrush was equally effusive about the intern placed at his company, “We were so pleased with Lauren; she represents the diversity of our future workforce that we are all responsible for cultivating.”

President & CEO of the LA Promise Fund, Veronica Melvin, shared her own sense of The Intern Project’s impact, “The amazing thing I’ve seen watching students in the Intern Project is that they come out young adults. They’re curious, and they go looking for opportunities.”

*Theodos, B., Pergamit, M.R., Hanson, D., Edelstein, S., Daniels, R., & Srini, T. (2017). Pathways after high school: Evaluation of the Urban Alliance high school internship program. Washington, DC: Urban Institute. Retrieved from urban_alliance_finalized_0.pdf